Women, Migration & the Cashew Economy in Southern Mozambique

Women, Migration & the Cashew Economy in Southern Mozambique


Jeanne Marie Penvenne


James Currey



Analyses the lives and livelihoods of the female cashew shellers in Mozambique's capital in the colonial era, during which the industry grew to be a major export, and relates how the women played a fundamental, but previously underappreciated, role in the colony's economy.

Between the late 1940s and independence in 1975, rural Mozambican women migrated to the capital, Lourenço Marques, to find employment in the cashew shelling industry. This book tells the labour and social history of what became Mozambique's most important late colonial era industry through the oral history and songs of three generations of the workforce. In the 1950s Jiva Jamal Tharani recruited a largely female labour force and inaugurated industrial cashew shelling in the Chamanculo neighbourhood. Seasonal cashew brews had long been an essential component of the region's household, gift and informal economies, but by the 1970s cashew exports comprised the largest share of the colony's foreign exchange earnings.
This book demonstrates that Mozambique's cashew economy depended fundamentally on women's work and should be understood as "whole cloth". Drawing on over 100 interviews, the rich narratives convey layered histories: the rural crises that triggered the flight of women, their lives as factory workers, widespread payment and wage fraud, the formation of innovative urban families, and the health costs that all African families paid for municipal neglect of their neighbourhoods.

Jeanne Marie Penvenne is Associate Professor of History, Core faculty in International Relations and Africana Studies at Tufts University. She is the author of the Herskovits shortlisted African Workers and Colonial Racism (James Currey/Heinemann, 1995)


August 2015
8 black and white, 4 line illustrations
303 pages
23.4x15.6 cm
ISBN: 9781847011282
Format: Hardback
Library eBook
James Currey
BISAC HIS001020, BUS068000, POL045000
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Table of Contents

A Century of Contestation around Cashews
Tarana: History from the Factory Floor
Migration: Pathways from Poverty to Tarana
Lives around Livelihoods: "Children Are Not Like Chickens"
African Urban Families in the Late Colonial Era: Agency
Conclusion: Gendered Perspectives on Work, Households and Authority
Epilogue: Mozambique's Cashew Economy, 1975 to 2014


Based on extensive interviews with former cashew workers, as well as wide-ranging research into the colonial archives, Penvenne's book fills a significant gap within the history of Mozambique while offering important correctives to some of African labor history's underexamined assumptions. The most important of these interventions is Penvenne's persuasive argument against the enduring focus on specific types of predominantly male labor. AFRICAN STUDIES REVIEW